Like everything with the Hurricanes these days, the past offseason was chaotic. They lowballed their best defenseman, brought in the league’s most controversial player, then made a reckless decision to get revenge on the Canadiens in an offer sheet war. There was no peace for Carolina. They re-enter an insanely tough Metropolitan Division this year, hoping that they did enough.
Offseason additions: F Jesperi Kotkaniemi, D Ethan Bear, D Tony DeAngelo, G Frederik Andersen, G Antti Raanta, D Ian Cole, D Brendan Smith, F Josh Leivo, F Derek Stepan, F Stefan Noesen, G Alex Lyon.
Offseason subtractions: D Dougie Hamilton, G Alex Nedeljkovic, G Petr Mrazek, G James Reimer, F Warren Foegele, F Brock McGinn, D Jake Bean, D Jani Hakanpaa, F Cedric Paquette, F Morgan Geekie.
The first domino in the offer sheet games to fall was Sebastian Aho two years ago. Aho led the team with 24 goals while averaging over a point-per-game, 57 in 56. He is an elite center who now has his line mates locked up for multiple seasons. Andrei Svechnikov signed an eight-year contract as a restricted free agent after scoring 15 with 42 points. The idea is for him to grow into the contract, as Svechnikov is entering just his age 21 season. A fully healthy Teuvo Teravainen is going to be important for the Hurricanes this year. Teravainen got into just 21 regular season games this season. He scored just five goals but did have ten assists. He was healthy in the playoffs but scored just twice in 11 games. Vincent Trocheck really struggled after coming over in 2019-20. But he rebounded last season, finishing second on the team in points. He had 43 points, 17 of them goals, in 47 games. Trocheck’s big year has established the Hurricanes as a team with elite center depth. The only Hurricanes not named Aho to score 20 goals was Nino Niederreiter. He scored nine more goals in eleven less games than he did in 2019-20. His shooting percentage was his highest since 2014-15. He also led the team with a 57.67 xGF%. Martin Necas had a breakout season. He scored 14 goals with 41 points. His elite speed helps the top-six, both as a winger and a potential center. Jordan Staal is one of the league’s top third line centers. He is good defensively, the team’s captain, and also scored 16 goals with 38 points. The Hurricanes successfully offer sheeted Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and will let the 2018 third overall pick grow on the left wing. He was not great for Montreal, with 20 points in 56 games. He did match his five regular season goals in the playoffs as Montreal went to the Stanley Cup Finals. Giving them a stable right wing is Jesper Fast. Despite an xGF% above 53, Fast had a 42.11 GF%, thanks to a .971 PDO. He went to free agency, but Jordan Martinook ended up returning on a three-year deal. Martinook is a leader and a gritty player, but he is the only returning starter to have an xGF% under 50 percent. Veteran Derek Stepan will fight to be the fourth line center. He was once a consistent 50-point scorer, but even at age 31, Stepan has fallen off. He played in 20 games for Ottawa last year, scoring a goal with five assists. Former seventh round pick Steven Lorentz captured a roster spot last year, appearing in 45 games plus all eleven in the playoffs, where he had three assists. Fighting for a roster spot is Josh Leivo. He played in 38 games for the Flames last year, scoring six goals.
Losing Hamilton is going to hurt this defense. With him on the division rival Devils, Jaccob Slavin will have to step up. The cat is out of the bag with Slavin being an elite defensive defender. But Slavin lacks Hamilton’s offensive prowess, as he had just 15 points last year. Slavin took just one minor penalty all year, and captured the Lady Byng Trophy. Brett Pesce received Norris votes for the second time in three seasons after a career high in average ice time, at just under 23 minutes a game. He had 25 points and an xGF% on par with Hamilton, at 56.46%. It looks like Jake Gardiner is going to miss the entire season, meaning that the pressure stays on Brady Skjei. Skjei struggled a bit last year, but he still had 62 blocked shots. He had good offensive production early in his career but scored just 10 points last year. The Hurricanes did a nice job sending Warren Foegele to Edmonton for Ethan Bear. Bear is a very underrated two-way defenseman who excelled on the top pair in Edmonton. He joins a better team with less responsibility. Carolina is risking it for Tony DeAngelo. He has been suspended in years prior for racist comments, and was kicked off the Rangers after six games last year for instigating a fight with goalie Alex Georgiev. He comes in on a cheap one year deal. DeAngelo has offensive talent, as he showed when he scored 15 goals with 53 points in 2019-20. However, he also struggles defensively. Steady defender Ian Cole could be a good match to play with DeAngelo. Cole blocked 94 shots in 54 games, just missing the 100 mark for the sixth consecutive season. A former teammate of DeAngelo’s, Brendan Smith, also joined the Hurricanes. He tied his career high of five goals last year in 48 games. Smith has a big penalty problem, with over 60 PIM in each of the last eight seasons, plus over 70 in the past three.
The Hurricanes surprisingly overhauled their goaltending this offseason after it was finally strong last year. Out is Calder winner Alex Nedeljkovic, and in are two injury prone former starters. Frederik Andersen played his way out of Toronto the past two seasons as Jack Campbell took over. In 24 games last year, Andersen had a .895 save percentage with a 2.96 GAA in front of a good defense for really the first time in his Maple Leafs tenure. Antti Raanta posted a .921 save percentage in 2019-20, but he was injured for most of last season. In just 12 games, he had a .905 save percentage.
Andrei Svechnikov – Sebastian Aho – Teuvo Teravainen
Nino Niederreiter – Vincent Trocheck – Martin Necas
Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Jordan Staal – Jesper Fast
Steven Lorentz – Derek Stepan – Jordan Martinook
Extras: Josh Leivo
Jaccob Slavin – Brett Pesce
Brady Skjei – Ethan Bear
Ian Cole – Tony DeAngelo
Extras: Brendan Smith
It goes ignored how good the Hurricanes were last year in the regular season. They won the Central Division, beating out the Lightning and Panthers. They will face tougher competition this season, and goaltending is a big question. But the Hurricanes have the best forward core in the division, and could very easily take it.